Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
Massive Attack’s Blue Lines is a grossly underappreciated classic that borrows from just about every conceivable genre you can think of. Over the years, I’ve come to refer to it as trip-hop’s Dark Side of the Moon. The opening bass line on “Safe From Harm” takes you on a journey and before you know it you’re at the last song, "Hymn of the Big Wheel.” The group’s use of samples was not only smart, but creative. They didn’t mine familiar territory like most acts often chose to do in this era. Massive Attack created sonic journeys that were unique and special for their time.
Many consider it to be the first trip-hop album although the term was not used at the time. Blue Lines was an experiment that was an homage to American hip-hop, using singers, live instruments and creative samples, all seen through the lens of the English band Massive Attack.
My Blues Lines story begins in 1991. I was shopping for CDs at Sounds on St. Mark’s Place in the village. There was a decent crowd in the store, many of them familiar faces from my previous excursions to the store. We all have our heads down, rifling through the bins hoping to score a find no one else had seen yet. “Safe From Harm” begins to play and heads bob in unison. We were digging what we were hearing and the album continued to play. Now we’re at track 4, a cover of William DeVaughn’s "Be Thankful for What You Got" and the bobbing heads look up, all sending out the same telepathic message: “who is this?” The regulars knew to ask this question out loud. I made a bee line to the counter and said “If you don’t have any other copies, I’ll buy this one.” It was the only copy and yes, I did buy it. I still have it. Yes, there were five more songs left, but I knew I had struck gold. I had my Sony Discman in my backpack and I played Blue Lines on my walk to the D train, with a short stop for a gyro spontaneously added in. That train ride was one great trip over the Manhattan Bridge. At the time I had no idea that a British trip-hop band would give me such a great NYC experience that would resonate with me to this day. Blue Lines is still in rotation at home.